December 11, 2012

God with Us


"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel, 
which means, "God with us." 
~Matthew 1:23

I wonder what it would have been like to have been there long ago on that quiet, starlit night when the Word became flesh and the Savior of the world was born.  What would I have felt, what would I have done, in the presence of the One who left the glory of heaven to dwell among us, to be with us?

I imagine I would have stayed back in the quiet, dark shadows of the stable, humbled by and in awe of the incarnation, of witnessing God made flesh.  I'm certain I wouldn't be able to speak for how could there be words adequate to express the fullness and depth of my heart at such a sight.  Love and joy and gratitude would overcome me and the tears... oh, how the tears would fall.  Moved by worship and adoration, I'd come slowly from the shadows to bow before the manger and gaze upon the beauty and majesty of the Light of the world.  I would kneel at his side and take the long-awaited child, the One who came to redeem us, to redeem me, and cradle him in my arms and hold him tightly to my chest.  Tears would fall like rain from my face to stain the precious cheeks of his.  What honor to behold the Lamb of God.  The Hope of the world.  The King of Kings.  Our Savior and Redeemer.  Emmanuel, God with us.

He was and is with us.

Even still.




"God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.  This is real love... not that we loved God, but that he loved us
 and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins." 
~1 John 4:9-10

"Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." 
~Matthew 28:20

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." 
~John 1:14



(I'm linking up today with "Tuesdays Unwrapped" at www.chattingatthesky.com)

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December 2, 2012

A Merry Mess

The Christmas season has begun and though I would like to say I'm ready for it, fabulously organized and on top of things, finished with my shopping, and completely decorated with my home looking exactly like my Christmas board on Pinterest, I cannot.  Sadly, that would be far, far from the truth.  The truth instead looks more like this...

...boxes upon boxes of Christmas decorations scattered around my home.

...a Christmas tree put up a week ago that begs for at least a single ornament to adorn its lovely branches.

...tiny little pine needles scattered here, there, and everywhere, all throughout our home.

...last night's dirty dishes in the kitchen sink including the pan of brownies I burnt before rushing out the door to our first holiday party of the season.

...clean laundry waiting to be folded and dirty laundry piled high waiting to be washed.

...craft and decorating projects started that wait to be completed and take up almost every inch of my kitchen and dining room tables, not to mention the kid's air hockey table.

...a storage closet I can hardly step inside because I've crammed it full of gifts and Christmas packages the UPS man delivered so my children won't see them.

Bathrooms need cleaned.  Floors need swept.  Furniture needs dusted.  Gifts need bought and gifts need wrapped.  Cookies need baked.  Christmas cards need addressed… and it's all just too much.  My home is an absolute, out-of-control mess.

And yet it's simply the most wonderful thing.

Wonderful because it reminds me of what is most important and it isn't a perfect home, a perfect Christmas, or a perfect me.  And wonderful because there's something incredibly liberating about things falling apart and coming undone… of letting go and letting be.

I woke up early this morning and as I maneuvered around boxes and piles to head to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee, I took in the crazy mess of my home and had to laugh.  I laughed at the magnitude and sheer size of the disaster I'd created, and laughed at the glorious disruption of being completely disorganized and overwhelmed and of losing control. I marveled at how far I've come... at how much God has and is healing me from needing and striving to be perfect, from having to have it all together and be in control.  And after I had a good laugh, I didn't quickly set about cleaning up the mess, but instead snuggled up in a cozy chair with a steaming cup of coffee and thanked Jesus for all he has done and is doing in my heart.  I thanked him for the beautiful, liberating, redemptive, merry mess because it's oh so very good for my heart.

As I move into the hectic and sometimes stressful Christmas season, there are a few thoughts I'm hanging on to and keeping before me.  They help me keep perspective and help to loosen my grasp on creating and being responsible for the perfect Christmas.  They alone are a gift to my heart and I hope they will be to yours as well...

Let it go.

Let it be.

Lay it down.

It can't be done.

Be and keep being...


A week or two later, the merry mess is gone, the house is fully decorated, and peace and order have come once again to the Barker home.


~I'm linking up today with "Tuesdays Unwrapped" at www.chattingatthesky.com

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November 22, 2012

Abundance

Driving home from the grocery store this week with a car full of all the makings for our Thanksgiving feast, my thoughts went to another feast.  Not the pilgrims first Thanksgiving at Plymouth, but a feast from the scriptures where Jesus miraculously fed a crowd of over five thousand.

"Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 
~John 6: 1-14

There are several parts of this story that touch my heart... just the compassion alone that Jesus showed the people is stunning.  They were poor and needy and sick and in Mark it says, "at the sight of them his heart broke, for they were like sheep without a shepherd." (6:34) Though Jesus was weary from teaching and healing many and longed for solitude and a chance to rest, he still lovingly welcomed the enormous crowd and continued to heal their sick and teach them about the kingdom of God.

His heart towards them is remarkably beautiful, but there's another heart that stands out to me as well and that is the heart of the young boy.  In my mind's eye, I picture this adorable, scrappy, little guy who stands back in the crowd and watches this man, this Jesus, heal the sick, make the blind see, the lame walk and he is blown away.  He is amazed and wowed by what he sees and his heart is quickly and easily won by Christ.  He instantly believes and he would give anything, even his lunch, to this mighty man who speaks truth and loves well.  The boy gives all he has... his five little loaves and his two small fish to Jesus and Jesus blesses his gift, gives thanks for it, and turns it into an ample abundance.  There is plenty of food to go around for all the people and even when they are satisfied, there are baskets upon baskets of leftovers.

Oh, how I love this story... the kindness and generosity of Christ, the beautiful and faithful heart of the boy.  Surely he was smitten with Jesus, in awe of his glory and deeply honored that God would use him and the gift of his lunch to feed thousands.  God saw his heart, his faith and willingness, and even though he was just a boy, he gave him a part to play in his kingdom.  He used his gift to abundantly bless and nourish the multitude.

The glorious part of this story is that the same is true for us.  We, just like the boy, have something to offer and a part to play that no one else can.  God can and wants to do great things with us... with our gifts, our own unique versions of the five loaves and two fish.  He asks only for our hearts... our faith, our willingness, our love.  Then, he can work in, through and with us to abundantly accomplish his purposes and draw others to himself and to his kingdom.  To partner with God... what joy and honor.


"God has done great things for us and we are filled with joy."
 ~Psalm 126:3

"From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another." 
~John 1:16

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, 
which God prepared in advance for us to do."
 ~Ephesians 2:10


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November 9, 2012

The Next Four Years

My heart has been all over the map since hearing the final outcome of the election this week.  There's much to say in how I feel about it, but then on the other hand, there's also much that is perfectly left unsaid.  I've started several posts, both in my thoughts and on my laptop, but I think that all I really want to say, the heart of what I want to express, is hope.

As the dust settles and the news of who will lead our country for the next four years sinks in, my overarching reaction and response is hope, strange as that may sound.  Not necessarily a sure hope in our government and president, but a firm and fixed hope in God and God alone.  I am so keenly aware of his sovereignty and his ultimate and perfect will in this election.  He is not surprised by the results.  He's in control and he is still the same... yesterday, today and forever as it says in Hebrews.  There's a larger story that is playing out, that must play out and there is a kingdom that's yet to come, that will come and that fills me with such immense and life-giving hope.

So, in God we trust and to him we pray... for our president, for our country and for his perfect will to be done.  We rest in his sovereignty and on him we set our hope.

"He controls the course of world events, he removes kings and sets up other kings." 
~Daniel 2:21

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 
~2 Corinthians 4:16-18

"Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed."  
~1 Peter 1:13


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October 31, 2012

Am I Enough?: Part Three

"Am I enough?"

... is the question God began to ask me years ago when my heart fell apart at the seams and some very deep, long-buried, never-dealt-with wounds rushed to the forefront of my life and slammed on the brakes.  I couldn't run.  I couldn't hide.  I couldn't take those wounds and sweep them under the rug any longer.  I couldn't box them up neatly and tuck them away on a shelf for another time.  The time was now and God was calling me.

"Am I enough for you?"

...he asked and wanting to be the faithful and trusting christian woman, I was quick to reply without fully considering the question and what its answer might cost me.  "Yes, Jesus.  Of course you are enough for me."  But it's one thing to say that God is enough and it's an entirely different thing to live it.

My trite, hasty answer just wouldn't do and God wouldn't leave me alone with the question.  It continued to play through my heart and mind...

"Do you truly believe, to your very core, that I am enough for you?  And if so, are you willing to live that out like never before?  If the life you've known up till now were to be turned upside down and nothing was safe or secure, would you find your safety and security in me?  If the roots you have known since birth were torn out from under you, would you graft yourself to me and trust me to sustain you?  If you lost everything, would you find your life in me and me alone?  Would I be enough?"

And I knew, deep in my heart, that long and treacherous paths were ahead and as much as I wanted to rush through them and get to the healing on the other side, there was a journey I had to take.  God was lovingly, but without force, inviting me to take that journey with him.  His kindness and patience were staggering.  He gave me the time and space I needed to wrestle, to grieve, to welcome the uncovering of my wounds and come to a place where I was ready to face them.

More than anything, I wanted God and I wanted to be a woman who walked with him... whatever that looked like, whatever that might cost.  I knew, to my very core, that regardless of what might come, I would find him to be enough.

My journey towards healing did indeed prove to be long and treacherous and much of what Jesus had warned me of came to be.  My life was turned upside down, very little was safe or secure, and the roots that had sustained me for most of my years were torn away.  Practically everything that had defined me, the safe and familiar and comfortable, was lost.

But I found Jesus to be enough... much, much more than enough.

He was.

He is.

He will always be.

photo credit: heythingschange.com

"All of you is more than enough for all of me,
For every thirst and every need.
You satisfy me with your love,
And all I have in you is more than enough." 
~from the song "Enough" by Chris Tomlin


“But then I will win her back once again.  I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there.  I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope.  She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young.  And when that day comes,” says the Lord, "she will call me ‘my husband’ instead of ‘my master.’  I will make her mine forever, showing her righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion.  I will be faithful to her and make her mine, and she will finally know me as the Lord."  ~Hosea 2:14-16, 19-20

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October 15, 2012

More of Enough: Part Two

This song by Tim Hughes continually played through my mind this morning as I quietly went about the folding of laundry, the making of beds, and the doing of dishes.

photo credit: www.nsf.gov

At some point, I realized it was a gift to my heart from Jesus, words I needed to cling to and breathe life from, so I let the song play through the stereo loudly on repeat... the beautiful lyrics filling every room of our home, time and again.

In my last post, I wrote about God being enough... about having all that I need and more than enough in him.  It's a consistent, continual theme of my journey... truth that God calls me to and reminds me of on a daily basis.  And if I rest in it, stay in it... it keeps me focused, grounded, and rooted in him.

God is enough.  He is more than enough.  He is all that I need... all that I am.  He is in everything.  He is everything.

Enjoy...




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October 11, 2012

Enough: Part One

It's early morning and I'm snuggled under a blanket by the fireplace with a once steaming cup of coffee in hand that has now grown cold and nearly empty.  Time to make more coffee.

The house is quiet, at least for a few minutes more, until my children wake and our day begins.

I sit in the silence... resting, praying, listening, and reflecting.  I sense the nearness of Christ... his love, favor, and delight as these few, simple words roll around on the edges of my heart...

"I have all that I need.  I have more than enough in God."

Whatever this day may bring... whether it's joy and laughter, ease and rest... or heartache and tears, stress and suffering,  I do have all that I need in Jesus.  He is enough.  He is more than enough.

"Come into my day, Lord.  Fill it with your life and light.  Be all that I need.  Be all that I am.  I give myself over to you in every way to live your life.  You are enough for me... enough for whatever this day may hold.  And if and when the crazy hits, may I keep those words close to my heart, whisper them aloud, and remember... you are all that I need, you are more than enough."

photo credit: flickriver.com
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October 5, 2012

A Life of Faith

My son pulled out our old photo albums this morning during breakfast.  Amongst scattered dishes, scrambled eggs, and lunches being packed, we looked through pictures of years gone past and laughed at photos of a little boy being silly and a little girl dressing up like a princess.  We played the game of remember when and we marveled at all the years have held for our family.

After the dishes were cleared, the last lunch was packed, and my children were off to school, I sat in our very quiet house and thumbed through the albums by myself.  I smiled.  I laughed.  I cried a few tears.  And as I opened an album from ten years ago, I read a quote I had written on the very first page...

"Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led.  But, it does mean loving and knowing the One who is leading.  It is literally a life of faith, not of understanding and reason... a life of knowing Him who calls us to go." ~Oswald Chambers

Ten years ago, God called our family to go.  What that really meant at the time was a mystery to us, but we knew we were being led and more than anything, we wanted to love and know more deeply the One who was leading us, so we went.

In the time since, our journey has been full of twists and turns, highs and lows, and in looking back, I'm amazed and in awe of all we've experienced.  We moved three times in three years and they were big moves, not just-around-the-corner moves.  Our children have been in seven different schools in ten years time.  We left a company, started a company, lost that company, and started with a new company.  We've said good-bye to many friends, made some new ones, and lost a few as well.  We've had financial issues to work through, marital struggles to heal from, and we've known more heartache, betrayal, and loss than we ever thought we could possibly endure.

We have certainly not lived a journey of understanding and reason.  Far, far from it.  But we have lived a life of faith and we have come to know and love, more deeply than ever, the One... the only One, who called us to go and who calls us even still.

And that has made the journey worth every single moment.


"I will lead the blind by a way they do not know.  In paths they do not know, I will guide them.  I will make darkness into light before them and rugged places into plains.  
These are the things I will do and I will not leave them undone."
 ~Isaiah 42:16

"I will teach you and guide you in the way you should go.  I will counsel you and watch over you."
~Psalm 32:8

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October 2, 2012

And He Asked Me to Dance

We've finished our supper of steak and mashed potatoes and we're cleaning up the dishes and everyone is talking at the same time.   Music is playing on the stereo and it drifts through the air like a fresh, invigorating breeze.  A spiced pumpkin candle burns slowly on the stove casting a warm glow around the room, making our home smell sweet and feel cozy.  There is much laughter and fast talking and a bit of good-natured arguing over who has done the most dishes, who did more last night, and who needs to do the rest.  We, the parents, decide the kids should finish the job since it's good for them to help, to work a little.  And, like the fabulous parents that we are, we tell them this with smiles and a chuckle but they don't find it very funny.  Well, maybe just a little.

He's being goofy and he looks adorable in his slouchy khaki cargo pants with his ball cap on.  He starts swaying his hips to the music and dancing around the kitchen and the kids beg, "Dad. Please. No."  But he ignores them and takes me in his arms and tells me to put down the sponge and let the kids get the rest.  "Come on! Dance with me!" he says as he leads me over to the rug.  He wraps his strong arms around me and holds me close, then quickly releases me and twirls me about.  He's silly and crazy and playful and he swings his hips in a way that makes me throw my head back in laughter.  He kisses me and I kiss him back and we're moving together to the music, enjoying each other, and living in a taste-of-what-heaven-will-be-like moment.

We're young and in love, though not really that young, and it's wonderful to be held, to laugh, to celebrate nothing, yet absolutely everything, and to share life together.

Me and my dance partner...


"And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, they danced by the light of the moon. 
 The moon, the moon, they danced by the light of the moon." 
~ from "The Owl and The Pussycat" by Edward Lear


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September 29, 2012

Cultivating Beauty

Each day I get a "Daily Reading" from Ransomed Heart Ministries... a short excerpt taken from one of John Eldredge's books.  This particular one came from the book "Captivating", written by John and his wife, Stasi.

Every woman possesses a captivating beauty. Every woman. But for most of us it has been long buried, wounded, and captive. It takes time for it to emerge into wholeness. It needs to be cultivated, restored, set free. How do we cultivate beauty? How do we become ever more beautiful? By tending to our hearts with great care, as a master gardener tends to her work.

"My mother's sons were angry with me and made me take care of the vineyards; my own vineyard I have neglected." ~Song of Solomon 1:6

Yes, life is harsh on a woman's heart. It has been so on your heart. The assault on our beauty is real. But Jesus is urging us now to care for ourselves, watch over our hearts (Prov. 4:23). The world needs your beauty. That is why you are here. Your heart and your beauty are something to be treasured and nourished. And it takes time. Every gardener knows this. In our age of instant makeovers and microwave meals, we don't like to wait. But a newly planted rose's presentation in its first year is nothing compared to its second. If properly cared for, its second year's display doesn't hold a candle to its third. Gardens need to become established; their roots need to go deep, through summer rains and winter frosts. A garden's beauty does not diminish with age, rather it takes years for it to become all that it can become. Our hearts need to feed on beauty to sustain them. We need times of solitude and silence. We need times of refreshment and laughter and rest. We need to listen to the voice of God in our hearts as He tells us what we need. Contrary to what the world claims, Beauty does not diminish with time; beauty deepens and increases. "Your latter glory will be greater than your former." True beauty comes from a depth of soul that can only be attained through living many years well.



As I read the passage, I found myself smiling and nodding my head in agreement.  Yes, all of this has been true of my journey... of the slow, carefully crafted, perfect work of God cultivating beauty in my heart and life.  He is the master gardener... growing, restoring and setting me free.  With each passing season... nourishing, pruning and tenderly watching over my heart, causing my roots to grow down deep in him.  In time, he is bringing forth a beauty that only his expert hand can bring.

"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." ~2 Corinthians 3:18

Ever-increasing glory...

Ever-increasing beauty...

I wonder, how is God cultivating and bringing forth beauty in your life?


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September 25, 2012

Mothering Hearts

When my children were young and would fall down and scrape their knees, I would scoop them up in my arms, hold them tight, and dry their tears until they faded away.  When the last bit of pain was gone, they would happily break free to run off and play again.

Now that they are teenagers, it isn't quite as easy as it was back then.  The things that bring them pain are much harder and more difficult to bear than the banged up knees of their childhoods.  The bumps and bruises of life at thirteen and fifteen can feel more like devastating, life-threatening injuries than minor cuts and scrapes that will heal and vanish quickly.

Mother's Day 2012

As their mother, I see and feel and know their ache and want so badly to wrap them up in my arms like I did when they were little, hold them close and take away their pain.  And though there is much that my mothering heart can offer, I know that ultimately, they need Jesus more than they need me.  Only he can truly take away their pain and meet their every need.  I can't and shouldn't rescue them like I did when they were small.  They need to learn to fall into the strong, loving arms of Christ and know with confidence that he will come for their hearts and care for them.

This morning, I held my beautiful, hurting girl tightly in my arms and tears trickled down both of our faces as we listened quietly to this song.

It speaks of the perfectly sufficient, all-comforting, mothering heart of God...

for her and for me.

    

"As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you."  Isaiah 66:13



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September 24, 2012

That Kind of a Day

It's a don't-really-want-to-be-where-I-am kind of a day.

Where I'm wondering if there's more and we're missing it and I'm asking if we should be looking and pondering whether we've stopped.

It's the kind of day where discontent knocks on my door and begs to come in and settle down on my sofa to stay for a nice, long visit.  Where disillusionment feels like a warm, cozy blanket to snuggle with and hide under, rather than throw off and discard.

Sometimes it's easy to give way and believe the lie that the grass must be greener on the other side and then set out determined to find that lusher, greener, more beautiful grass.

I wonder... what does Jesus say to my questions?  Does he want me to answer the knock of discontent and snuggle under the blanket of disillusionment?  What does he think of me entertaining thoughts of ambitious quests for greener grass?

He says...  "Stay the course.  Hold fast.  Do not give way.  Keep the faith.  Embrace hope.  Feel desire deeply and stay in it, but do not be ruled by it.  Put your trust in me and be... who you are, where you are.  Be and keep being."

"Do not throw away your confidence, he said.  Do not budge from your perch, but sing your song, summer confident and sure of my great goodness toward you.  You did not bring this spring, dear child, you do not have to arrange for the summer to follow.  They come from thy Father's will and they will come."  ~from "The Journey of Desire" by John Eldredge

The tall, green grass and bright yellow wildflowers just a short walk from my home...




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September 17, 2012

Mothers, Daughters and the Grace to Be

The email from her teacher came this morning telling us that she didn't do her Math homework.  She says she did it.  She just didn't do the other Math homework before the one in question.  She thinks her teacher probably made a mistake.

She learned from a friend late last night, right before bed, that she has a Science test today, but she didn't stay up late going over her notes to cram for the test, nor did she wake up early to study, just in case her friend was right.  She thinks they probably have the date wrong.

She has a Math test tomorrow, but she hasn't started preparing for it and she didn't look over any of the problems this weekend.  Instead, she took it easy, slept in late, went to dinner with friends, cheered wildly at her high school's football game, painted her nails a lovely, glowing shade of red and spent long, creative hours on Pinterest organizing boards for her future dream wedding in Italy and her stylish, on-trend virtual wardrobe.

And I want to scream and pull my hair out.

This girl God has given us is an absolute mystery to me.  I am crazy-wild about her and blessed to be her momma, but for the life of me, I cannot wrap my head around how her sweet little head works.  She's more creative than I have any idea.  She's dreamy and imaginative, easy-going and carefree.  There's very little drama with this girl, which I am immensely grateful for, but how to motivate her, how to push her to be all that she can possibly be?  

I struggle...

Oh, how I struggle.

I dropped her off at school early this morning so she could meet with her Math teacher.  She got out of the car, all smiles and sunshine with beautiful nails, and wished me a wonderful day.  "Bye Momma!  Have a good day!  I love you!" she called out in her sweet, sing-songy way, even after learning she's been grounded for the week due to the previously mentioned misses and a few others I didn't mention.

God love her.

I drive away from the school shaking my head.  Half laughing.  Half frustrated.  She's precious and I love her more than words could ever express, but my goodness... 

What's a mother to do?

I let out a deep sigh and say a prayer...  "Jesus, she's yours.  Once again, I release her to you.  Help me give her the freedom to fail and fall and make her own choices and feel the weight of them.  Help me give her the grace to be and the room to become all you intend her to be."

My sweet girl... 
this post was published with her permission and blessing.

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August 17, 2012

Forty-Something

photo credit: whitelilyz.com

I have a birthday this week.

A forty-something birthday.

I really don't keep track of the exact number anymore since age is just a number anyway and forty is the new thirty and forty is fabulous and with age comes wisdom.  At least, that's what they say.  I'm not sure if any of those things are true, but they work for me, so I'm pretty much okay with turning forty-something.

However, I have to admit that birthdays do bring about some ambivalence in my heart.  It's not the number that gets me, or the random gray hairs that continue to find their way upon my head, or the fact that I consistently need stronger reading glasses.  It's not the crows feet around my eyes that lengthen and deepen with each passing year, nor is it the few extra pounds that have mysteriously crept on that I can no longer blame on the holidays, or the fact that I gave birth to two children many years ago.

No, it's none of those things that get me, no matter how frustrating and horrible those things sometimes seem.

It is the longing, though...

Oh, how the longing gets me.

Each year, around my birthday, I find myself reflecting on my journey... what the years have held, where life has me now and what I hope for in the future.  And almost always, the reflecting brings with it the longing.  Not the unhappy-with-my-life, frustrated and anxious kind of longing, but the wishful, hopeful, can't-wait-for-Christmas-morning kind of longing.  It keeps me up sometimes at night and lingers over me during the day and tempts me to become impatient and restless.

It's the longing for so much more...

More of life and more of love and more in my relationships.  More healing and growth, and the subsequent beauty and strength that comes with it.  More courage and trust, more faith and hope.  More of who God made me to be... more of my calling and place in his kingdom and more of Jesus... always more of Jesus.

Wanting so badly to see and experience what lies ahead, I'm sometimes guilty of trying to rush my journey instead of waiting on God, who usually isn't in a hurry and whose timing is often not my own.  He's much more concerned with my healing and growth than he is with the passing of time.  And though I might wish differently, He may choose to take years to accomplish something in my life and develop me for his purposes.

So, for my birthday, give me patience for the journey, Jesus.  May I stay in you... being and resting, hoping and trusting, as you continue your beautiful work in my life.  May your plans for me gracefully unfold one day at a time, in your time.

And give me more of you, so much more of you, Jesus...

because anything else is really just the icing on the cake.

"I know what I'm doing.  I have it all planned out...  plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.  When you call to me, when you come to pray to me, I'll listen."  Jeremiah 29:11-12



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August 8, 2012

Lost and Found

I came across this passage in Luke recently and was deeply touched by Jesus' heart towards the widow, a woman living in the midst of tremendous pain and loss.

Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him.  A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her.  When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said.  Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.”  
Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother." 
~Luke 7:11-17

photo credit: jsr75.wordpress.com

In my mind's eye, I imagine the widow's face is drawn, her eyes are swollen from tears and deep, dark circles surround them.  She walks slowly and clumsily beside the coffin of her son, trying to hold her head high and find the strength to press on.  Shell shocked and numbed by grief, she wonders inwardly, "How did I get here?  When did my life take such a tragic turn?  My hopes and dreams are shattered and those I have loved most in life are lost to me now.  How do I possibly carry on?  How do I find the strength and courage to live?"

And then comes Jesus.

He's walking along the path with his friends, about to enter the village.  Countless people surround him... dozens of mourners and dozens of others who just can't get enough of his teaching and life.  But though he's encompassed by many, his heart is captured by one... a heartbroken, grief-ridden, struggling woman on her way to lay her only child to rest.

Upon one look at her, Jesus instantly feels her grief and loss.  Moved by love, sorrow and a strong desire to alleviate her pain, he tenderly approaches her, lays his hand upon her shoulder, looks into her eyes with a gentleness she hasn't known since her husband died and he tells her not to cry.  He reaches out and touches the coffin that bears her precious boy and he brings him back to life.  He gives her back what was lost.

Absolutely stunning.

Jesus sees the widow.  He truly and genuinely sees her.  He feels her pain as if it was his very own and moved by love, he heals not only her son, but her as well... her broken, bleeding heart, her shattered hopes and dreams.  His tenderness, compassion, strength and power on her behalf is staggering and amazingly beautiful to me... because it's familiar.

I know this story well.  I have been the widow and I have known this Jesus.  I, too, have experienced great suffering and loss and have truly been seen by him.  He has moved with power and love on my behalf to lay his hand upon the coffin of my life and give me back what was lost.  I've been found by him and in the finding, he's healed my heart and set me free.

"You have turned my mourning into dancing."  
~ Psalm 30:1

"I run in the path of your commands for you have set my heart free."  
~ Psalm 119:32


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August 5, 2012

Restless and Wrestling

It's three o'clock in the morning.  I wake from a dream I can't remember and instantly feel the crushing weight of reality on my chest.  A thousand and one different concerns race chaotically through my mind.  I'm restless for the future and wrestling with the present.  Life has not gone the way I thought it would or had hoped it might and when I'm honest about that, when the truth of my journey... where I am, where I've been and where it looks like I'm headed... rushes unrestrained to the surface, I come undone.

I lay in bed for a while and try to go back to sleep but my mind won't stop churning.  My head hurts and I want to run and hide to escape the pain and quiet the noise.  In the mounting stress, I'm tempted to devise a plan to take control and arrange for the life I want.  Anything to dull the ache and bring relief.  I can't do strength and hope and faith anymore.  I just don't have it in me.

photo credits: thelevendian.com

Normally, most of the time, I'm incredibly resilient and live with a courage that surprises even me.  I can take a punch, many in fact, and still stand strong.  My husband says I have the balls (forgive the expression) that most men would envy, but that's not true right now, not in this moment.  I stumble out of bed and grab my robe and quietly head downstairs.  I sit in the darkness and pray.  I search the Internet looking for something, though I'm not sure what it is.

My brave and loving husband comes looking for me in the dark and patiently listens and holds me while I rant and rave, cry and laugh, question and wrestle, struggle and search.  The crazy hits and I'm a mess.  As he wraps his arms around me, I feel the arms of Jesus holding me tight as well and I sense him saying, "It's okay.  You can beat on my chest.  I know and understand your ache and longing.  Let it out.  Let it come.  I can handle your heart."

And after I've said my piece in a way that hardly makes sense but brings release and a soothing sense of calm, I hear the words I've been hearing for some time now...

"Be."

"Rest."

"Wait."

"Trust."

"Be."

And I know that I can have answers or I can have Jesus and all I really want...

all I've ever really wanted...

is Jesus.

"I would have lost heart unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord;  be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."  
~Psalm 27:13-14



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July 27, 2012

I See Heaven

This song by Brian and Katie Torwalt has been playing on repeat in my home, on my iPhone, and in my car and across my mind and heart the last several days.

It's the cry of my heart... that heaven, the very presence and glory of God, would come down and invade this place.

Our home.

Our family.

Everything we have.

Everything we are.

Our very being.

Permeating, infiltrating, seeping and soaking through every last bit.

The hope of Jesus... of healing and heaven.

Nothing can compare.

And really, what could matter more?





I see heaven, invading this place, I see angels, Praising Your Holy Name
And I sing praises, I sing praises, I give You honor, Worthy Jesus

I see Glory, Falling in this place
I see hope restored, healing of all disease
And I sing praises, I sing praises, I give You honor, Worthy Jesus

We give You Praise, and all of the Honor
You are our God, the one we live for
We give You Praise, and all of the Glory God

Let Your Presence fill this place, Let heaven come
Let Your angels be released, Let Heaven come
We will worship at Your feet, Let Heaven come
Face to face we want to meet, Let Heaven come


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July 16, 2012

Blogging and Wisdom

My fingers begin to type away as the words roll off my heart.  So much stored there, so much waiting for a voice.  My thoughts go to Mary and how the scripture says, "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19)  And I wonder if maybe it was all too much for her, if she just couldn't take in the many wondrous things God was doing in her life, so she treasured them up for later, for a time when she could leisurely savor and reflect on them.

There have been times in my journey where I haven't written at all.  Not on a blog and not even in my private, personal journal.  The task of recording my heart was just too enormous, too difficult.  I couldn't do it.  Sometimes it was too beautiful for words, other times, more than painful to describe, and many times, the words just wouldn't come.  Often I whispered a prayer, "Jesus, help me remember all I'm feeling, learning and experiencing right now.  Help me to treasure these things in my heart for a different season, another time, when writing doesn't feel so immensely difficult and I'm in a better place."

And now, here I am in a different season and a better place and I'm writing once again.  The words come easy and I'm putting them on the Internet in the form of a blog.   I feel drawn to it and know with confidence that God is in it, but I feel quite ambivalent about it as well.  It feels so naked, so raw, so incredibly vulnerable and I question the wisdom of it.  Does it really make sense to publish my thoughts, the intricacies and intimacies of my soul, on the world wide web for anyone and everyone to read?

There are people I've shared my heart with over the years who have not handled it well.  My confidence has been betrayed time and again.  There are those I wouldn't share my deepest thoughts and feelings with, let alone tell them where we're going on vacation or even what we had for dinner last night.  Yet, here I am, pouring out my heart in a blog for them and the entire world to read if they so desire.  Is it wise?

Words comes to mind and a post begins to take shape, but I stop myself thinking, "I can't write about that on the Internet!"  And I hold back.  I choose not to write or I write about a subject that's safer and less vulnerable and it makes me wonder if my writing is really what it could or should be.  I edit my heart instead of just letting it be which is the very thing God is calling me to... just being.  It's what my blog is all about.

So I'm praying and listening and staying in the questions.  I'm waiting and trusting and knowing God will continue to speak.  I'm not hiding and running.  I haven't hit delete... at least not yet. (smile) I'm still writing and wrestling and somehow, slowly but surely, finding my voice in the whole glorious mess.




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July 13, 2012

Being with Jesus: Part Two

My last post was a difficult one.  It wasn't the writing of it that was hard, it was the living out of it that got me.  I wrote the post in the quiet morning hours before my children got up and my day had yet to really begin.  The coffee was hot, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and I was enjoying some quiet, reflective time with Jesus.  But once I hit publish and closed my computer, I realized what time it was and my day exploded and the frantic pace of life set in.  I had places to go and people to see and time was running short.

I was leaving my kids at home for a bit while I went to a hair appointment and the grocery store.  I had "hired" them to do a few jobs around the house while I was gone and I needed to go over those with them before I left.  I also really wanted to squeeze in a work out, but there wasn't enough time for that.  And I had hoped to go over my grocery list, thumb through my coupons, and scan the pantry and fridge to see what else we might need, but there wasn't time for that either.  Instead, I raced around the house like a crazy woman, took a quick shower, reminded my children not to fight, to have fun, get their jobs done and eat healthy, all of which I'm sure they didn't appreciate or need to hear, and I left the house in a hurry hoping not to be late for my appointment.

As I drove to the salon, my mind going in a thousand different directions, I thought back on my post and felt false and phony.  Nothing I had written just a few hours before felt true of my day or of me.  My words just seemed pretty and flowery and nice but so completely insincere and impractical that it was almost humorous.  Relaxed?  At rest?  Not needing to come through?  Not needing to be anything more than what I already am?  Enjoying the peaceful presence of Christ?  Really???  I said a little prayer out loud, "Jesus.  Help.  Be here now.  Help me to hang on to all I wrote this morning.  Make it true in my life."

I arrived late for my appointment, sat in the chair and chatted with my stylist while she worked her magic and later, while I sat under the dryer with a head full of foils, I pulled myself away from the latest issue of People magazine to pick up my phone, pull up my post, and read it again.  Another prayer... "Jesus, help me get this back.  Help me stay in this."

Jesus warned us in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy but I have come to bring you life in all its fullness."  I think it's safe to say that any movement towards life, towards freedom and rest, is opposed.  We live in a fallen world, a world of clashing kingdoms.  There is light and there is darkness.  There is heaven and there is hell.  If we want to truly and freely live, if we want life in all its fullness as Christ intended, then we have to live like we have an enemy and we have to fight for the life we prize.  Though Jesus certainly comes and fights for us, we too have to take a stand and use the authority he's given us through his work on the cross.  Freedom doesn't come easy.  It isn't just handed to us.  James 4:7 says, "Humble yourselves before God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you."  He will flee but we must resist and that can sometimes feel immensely difficult.  It's worth all the effort though.  It's very much worth it.

Looking back, I honestly felt opposition most of my day.  There were moments I fought well and hung on to what I had written, to what was true, and there were moments I failed miserably.  So much so, that at the end of the day, I even contemplated deleting the post because it felt terribly inauthentic and authenticity is hugely important to me.  But through the kind and encouraging words of my husband, I realized that though my day had not gone as I had hoped, nor looked a whole lot like my post, I had fought for it.  I didn't throw in the towel.  I had stayed with it and in it and had fought hard.  I had lived well.

As I grow older, I'm discovering there's a real strength and scrappiness to my heart.  Maybe it was there all along but laid deep, buried in wounds and the healing and growth I've come to know has brought it the surface.  Either way, it serves me well and is helping me to continue to be and become all God intends me to be.




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July 10, 2012

Being with Jesus: Part One

Today's passage from "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young was just what I needed on this warm, sun drenched summer morning.  Water to my thirsty soul were the beautiful, intimate words that beckoned and invited me to rest.  To let out a huge sigh of relief and quiet the noise in my heart and mind.  To lay down the many thoughts and concerns that threaten to steal my joy and peace.  To be still in the presence of Jesus and enjoy his friendship.

Thank goodness this day is not up to me.  I don't have to hold the world together.  I don't have to have all the right answers.  I don't have to come through.  I don't have to be perfect.  I don't have to be anything more than what I already am.  I can rest.  I can relax.  I can just be.

What wonderful, refreshing and life-giving news...

"Relax in my peaceful presence.  Do not bring performance pressures into our sacred space of communion.  When you are with someone you trust completely, you feel free to be yourself.  This is one of the joys of true friendship.  Though I am Lord of Lords and King and Kings, I also desire to be your intimate Friend.  When you are tense or pretentious in our relationship, I feel hurt.  I know the worst about you, but I also see the best in you.  I long for you to trust me enough to be fully yourself with me.  When you are real with me, I am able to bring out the best in you; the very gifts I have planted in your soul.  Relax, and enjoy our friendship."


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June 28, 2012

Twenty Years

Yesterday my man and I celebrated our anniversary.  Our twentieth anniversary.  Twenty years.  I can hardly believe we've been married that long.  How quickly time has slipped past us.  The years of sharing life together have flown by at record speed.

It seems like it was just yesterday that I first gave him my heart.  I was a young, starry-eyed girl of sixteen and completely smitten.  We were juniors in high school and he asked me to the prom and what was really only meant to be a date to the dance, turned into the rest of our lives.

Looking back, I realize how very young we were when we fell in love.  Barely even old enough to know what love was.  We were just kids.  And now, here we are in our forties, still crazy-in-love, with two kids of our own.  Season after season and year after year, we've grown up together and covered a lot of ground.  Twenty years is a lot of time to learn how to love someone well.

Our love for each other and our commitment to us has been tested and tried in the fires of life.  We've fought and made peace.  We've ached and found healing.  We've cried and laughed more.  We've wrestled, only to grow.  We've lost and won big.  And by the grace of God, though many marriages have fallen apart around us, ours has miraculously grown stronger and deeper.  Truer and richer.  Refined by the flames instead of destroyed by them.  Truly the work of our great and loving and generous God.

Happy Anniversary, my Love.  There is no one I would rather be sharing this life with than you. You have my heart and I know I have yours as well.  I look forward, with great hope and anticipation, to the next twenty plus years of our life together and I imagine them to be our best years yet.


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June 15, 2012

Just Write

Standing at the laundry closet folding the warm, soft-scented clothes as I pull them out of the dryer, I'm going through the motions of an ordinary, almost daily task, but as I work, my mind and heart are somewhere else.  I'm lost in thought and deep in a conversation with Jesus about my writing.  It sounds a bit like this...

"Jesus, I want to write.  I'm ready to write.  Not just privately in my journal, but out there wherever there may be.  Words and sentences continually take shape and play about in my mind while I'm simply doing life... while I'm cleaning house and cooking dinner, spending time with family and friends, or just reading a book and sitting by the pool.  Even in my sleep, I'm stringing words together and writing out my story.


There is so much treasured up in my heart and mind that calls out for a voice.   Thoughts from my journey and what I've come to know of you rise up to the surface and spill out over the edge, filling page after unwritten page.  Though writing for an audience other than my journal is risky and vulnerable, I don't fear it.  I'm not hiding.  I'm ready.  So what do you have for me, Jesus?  What does it look like for me to be a writer?  Where would you have me offer my heart?"

And as I continue to fold the clothes, staying with those questions, I sense him saying warmly with a big smile on his face as if he's been looking forward to this conversation and preparing me for it...

"What are you waiting for?  You don't need an invitation and you don't need permission.  You already have both.  Just do it.  Go for it!  Just write."

And so I did...

and this blog came to be.

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June 12, 2012

On Being Nice

I saw her at the pool yesterday.  I smiled.  She smiled.  I said hello.  She said hello.  I asked her how she was.  She said she was fine and asked me how I was.  I said I was doing well.  And that was it.  The conversation didn't go any further.  I don't really know her all that well and it even took me a minute to remember her name, but normally I would have asked more questions, tried to create more conversation and been more friendly.  Why wasn't I more engaging?  Why didn't I smile more and offer more?  Why wasn't I sweeter, kinder, warmer and nicer?


I've never found her to be a warm person, open to friendship.  I've passed her in the aisles at the grocery store and turned to say hello, only to  have her quickly look the other way as if she didn't see me.  She seems to wear a sign that says, "Stay back.  I don't want to know you."  I can't see her sign, it's invisible of course, but I know it's there and that's partly why I didn't engage her more at the pool.  Why would I pursue someone who is so very guarded and unfriendly?  Why would I put my heart out there only for it to be trampled on and dismissed?




There's another reason though why I didn't reach out to her more and it wasn't because I was guarding my heart or afraid of her rejection and dismissal, it's because Jesus is setting me free from having to be sweet and friendly and nice.  All the time.  Constantly.  Every waking moment.  Though there is a genuine warmth and love about me,  I am very aware that I have often used those gifts for the wrong reasons throughout my life.  They have helped me get my needs met apart from Christ... the need to be loved and the need for people to be happy with me, to like me.  I have been the classic people pleaser.

But I don't need to use those gifts for the wrong reasons any more.  I know who I am.  I know my worth.  I know that every need I have is met in Christ.  I don't need people to like me and be happy with me.  I don't need to be nice all the time to win their approval and acceptance.  Of course, I want those things, they are certainly welcome, but I don't need them.  I am free.  I am loved.  I am secure.

How wonderful it was to come home from the pool feeling strong and confident and free.  How good it was to just be and not need to be anything else.

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June 11, 2012

Listening to Love


I'm sitting amongst a quiet, captivated audience at the Fillmore Concert Hall listening to my daughter sing.  She is confident and comfortable at the piano and in front of the crowd.  Her hands move gracefully along the keyboard as her fingers instinctively play the keys.  Her voice, a rapidly maturing instrument with budding layers of both sugar and soul, travels fluidly throughout the auditorium.  She woos the crowd, draws them in and holds them captive in the palm of her hand.

Her father and I sit stunned.  We stare at her in awe and listen attentively as pride and love wash over us.  I reach over and touch his arm and he looks at me and we smile.  Our eyes, rimmed with tears, communicate what words don't... she's amazing and she's ours and is this really the same girl who sometimes acts fifteen going on five but is now performing like she's fifteen going on twenty-five?  We shake our heads and laugh and bask in the beauty of this talented girl God has given us.

As I listen to her sing, savoring every lyric and sound, other voices beg for my attention.  Fear, worry and doubt knock on the door of my mind.  I hear their knock and dismiss it because I know better than to let those voices in.  But if I were to open the door, if I were to welcome them in, they would frantically greet me like this...

"How will she ever make it in the world of music?  She'll be eaten alive!  Is she strong enough?  Mature enough?  Are her values intact?  Is her heart captured by Jesus?   Will she hold fast to her faith or will she be corrupted by the world and abandon it?  Does she really have a future in the music industry?  Will she make it or be a starving artist?  Do you even want her to make it?  Fame and fortune aren't everything!  What if she sings at dark, smoky, seedy clubs?  Shouldn't she only sing christian music?  Isn't that safer?  Who will guide and manage her career?  Who could you possibly trust?  You don't know anything about the music industry!  What if people take advantage of her and use her gifts for their own gain?"

What if?  What if?  What if?  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  On and on those voices would go if I let them, if I would listen.  But I'm not listening.  I won't listen.  I'm listening to Love instead.  Perfect Love.  The kind of love that casts out fear instead of welcoming it in.  Love that says...


"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, 
for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  
Joshua 1:9



"Don't worry about anything instead pray about everything. 
Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done."  
Philippians 4:6



"I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.  They are plans for peace and not for disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope."  
Jeremiah 29:11


And in listening to Love, I can confidently say with peace and trust and hope, "Sing on, Sweetheart...  Run in your glory and soar...  You are safe.  You are seen.  You are held.  God has you in the palm of his hand and your Daddy and I have your back.  You are free to be all you were ever intended to be and I can't wait to see what your future holds.  Sing on!"

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June 1, 2012

Once Upon a Time: A Story About Grace

Once upon a time, there was a vibrant, young girl with big brown eyes, who was very curious.  She was a bit, or maybe a lot, mischievous and had a tendency to get into things.  Her father often said to her in anger and frustration when curiosity got the best of her, "Stop messing!  You're always messing!"  She wasn't quite sure what "messing" meant, but it felt like it meant she was always causing problems and making life hard and inconvenient for those around her.

One day, curiosity told her it would be fun to play a game, so she looked for one way up high on the top shelf of a closet where the games were stored.  Though she probably should have gotten a step stool to help her reach the shelf, she instead stood tall on her little tiptoes, reaching and reaching with her long, slender arms to find the game she wanted.  Unfortunately, in her clumsy efforts to do so, she bumped her mother's iron that was also stored on the shelf and the iron fell to the wood parquet floor and broke.

Oops.

When her mother found out what she had done, she was more than furious.  She wasn't concerned that the iron could have fallen on her daughter and hurt her, nor was she happy and relieved that it had not fallen on the girl and she was unharmed.  What did concern her though was that the iron was broken and the girl would have to replace it.  She would pay for it.  In essence, she had been "messing" once again, and this time, she would learn her lesson.


Fast forward many, many years and that mess-making, vibrant, young girl is now a grown woman with a daughter of her own.  She is a delightful girl... beautiful and curious and creative and just like her mother, she also has a tendency to find herself in the middle of messes.  Things are often being forgotten or lost or broken.

And this is where grace and redemption enter the story...

Where a mother has the choice to turn her own wounds on their head, to stop the cycle of fear and control and respond freely and lavishly with the grace she didn't receive, but deserved when she was a girl.  She can change the tides.  She can right the wrong.  She can offer grace and love and forgiveness instead of anger, judgement and punishment.  All because of Jesus.  Because she has tasted his sweet redemption and come to know his boundless grace and extravagant love.  Because she has come to know him as her very life.

"Oh Jesus, may I be that mother.  Each and every day.  May your grace so consume and engulf me that it overflows in abundance to my beautiful, curious, innocent daughter who sometimes makes messes but is always worthy of grace.  And as that grace flows, may you use it to continually wash over my heart and heal the hurts of the young girl in me." 

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May 29, 2012

Burning Up

It was a hot weekend in Virginia.

I mean really, really hot.

Truly the hottest days we've had so far this season.

And we spent them without air conditioning.

Our air conditioner went out on Friday and though a technician came to take a look at it, the part needed to repair it had to be ordered.  The cold, hard truth was we were going to have to endure the heat until the part came in and the air conditioner could be repaired and that would take at least five days.

Heat advisories and severe weather alerts were on the news and in my inbox warning people to stay indoors and stay cool, but how do you stay indoors and stay cool when it's hotter in your house than it is outside?  We raced to Home Depot and bought four fans to strategically place around our home.  We opened all the windows.  We drank a lot of iced tea and water and made smoothies.  We took ice cold showers.  We tried to have a positive attitude and find a bit of humor in our situation, but it's hard to laugh when you're burning up.

photo credits: new.eletewater.com

My mind drifted back to my freshman year at Auburn University in Alabama and my dorm that had no air conditioning.  Studying for finals that spring was miserable.  It's hard to concentrate when you're hot.  I remember several of us girls chipping in what little money we had and getting a hotel room so we could get some much needed, air-conditioned sleep.  I wondered if getting a hotel room might be a good idea even now.

I also remembered the summer I spent six weeks in Guyana, South America on a mission trip.  Wow.   I am not sure I can even describe that kind of heat, though I am sure I was close to being that hot this past weekend.

And then I found myself reflecting on the blog I've followed recently of a woman who went to Tanzania on a mission trip with Compassion.  Many of the Tanzanian people she encountered had very little, struggled at times just to survive and often did without the necessities of food, water and shelter.  (Air conditioning is not a necessity, I might add.)  She described meeting one young man whose home was a humble, small hut made of mud with a roof laced together of twigs and branches.  Inside, it had no windows, a dirt floor and a fire pit in the center for cooking.  Amazing that people really live like that, but more amazing is what the young man had painted on the outside of his hut...

"The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need."  Psalm 23:1

How sobering and convicting that this boy, who lives in such humble conditions, is completely confident in the fact that he has everything he needs.  He knows God will care for him.  He has nothing to fear, nothing to worry about.  He has all he needs and he's even proclaiming it in words on his beautiful, sacred, humble and holy, little mud hut.  Amazing.

I wonder, do we have that same kind of trust and confidence in God's provision?  Do we really and truly know that we have all we need?  Or do we worry and fret and scramble to attempt to meet our own needs instead of trusting Christ to meet them for us?

Going without air conditioning has been good for our family.  We have so much.  We have everything we need and then some.  It was good for us to do without, to be uncomfortable and restless and to recognize our complete inability to control not only our air conditioner, but everything else in our lives.  There is only one who can truly meet and satisfy our every need and that is Jesus.  We have everything and yet he is all we really need.

Five days later, I'm still burning up.  It's still hot and the air conditioner is still broken and it's eighty-eight degrees in my house with almost all the windows open and all the fans running on full force.  I'm still uncomfortable and still a bit restless.  But something has shifted in my heart through the suffering and my grasp on all I think I need has loosened.  Though the comfort of an air conditioned home has yet to come, I keep remembering these words and speaking them out loud...

"The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need."

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May 26, 2012

Reflections on a Saturday Morning

Early Saturday morning.  Warm sun rising.  Birds cheerfully sing and call to each other, waking to a new day.  Windows wide open throughout the house.  Fresh, clean breeze drifts in and lingers.  I move about gently and slowly and leisurely.  No urgent tasks demand to be done.  No need to race out the door.  Clock ticks quietly.  A steaming, cup of coffee in hand.  The dark rich aroma fills the air.  Children sleep like angels in their beds.  Husband and devoted dog out running and enjoying the morning.  Solitude and silence.  Peace and tranquility.  Grace and gratitude.



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May 18, 2012

Already All I Need

Christy Nockels is one of my favorite christian artists.  I discovered her music through a dear friend about twelve years ago and have been a huge fan ever since.  She has the amazing and uncanny ability to consistently sing the anthems of my journey.  Wherever I am, whatever season I'm going through, she always seems to put to song exactly what's written on my heart.  Many times, when I haven't been able to find the words to express what I feel, her songs have done it for me.  They are the cries and prayers of my heart.


Her most recent album is no different.  Every song is my favorite, but the song, "Already All I Need" has continually been playing on repeat in the playlist of my mind.  Here it is...


And the lyrics...

Asking where You are, Lord. Wondering where You’ve been. Is like standing in a hurricane, trying to find the wind. And hoping for Your mercy to meet me where I am. Is forgetting that Your thoughts for me, outnumber the sand. You filled the sun with morning light. You bid the moon to lead the night. You clothe the lilies bright and beautiful. You’re already all I need. Already everything that I could hope for. You’re already all I need. You’ve already set me free. Already making me. More like You. You’re already all I need. Jesus, You’re already all I need. Walking through this life without Your freedom in my heart. Is like holding onto shackles that You have torn apart. So remind me of Your promises. And all that You have done. In this world I will have trouble. But You have overcome. And every gift that I receive. You determine just for me. But nothing I desire compares with You. In Your fullness. You’re my all in all. In Your healing. I’m forever made whole. In Your freedom. Your love overflows. And carries me. You carry me.

Listening to this song, I realize how often I pray for things that God has already given me or done for me.  I ask for things that are already mine for the taking, freely given, right in front of me, ready and waiting to be received.  It's like making breakfast for my children, placing it in front of them and they ask, "Mom, can you please make us some breakfast?"  It's already been done.  I already made breakfast.  It's right in front of them.  Why don't they just eat and enjoy?  Why would I make breakfast again?

This song is a beautiful reminder of all Jesus has done for us and all He continues to do.  For forever and always, his work on the cross was and is perfect... and perfectly sufficient at that.  He doesn't need to do it again.

He's already all I need.

I just need to remember that truth... rest in it and receive.

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May 17, 2012

Rescued

It was an average day, nothing really special or out of the ordinary.  Just a day spent at home with mundane tasks at hand... laundry, cleaning, working out, emails, menu planning, grocery list making, cooking, carpool and then a bit more laundry.  The day went along without incident until the afternoon rolled around and with it, a thick dark cloud that settled into place right above me.


A medical bill came in the mail that I was expecting it's just that I wasn't expecting it to be quite so very much.  And then there was a frustrating, border-line heated conversation with one of my children over some homework that had been put to the side until the very last minute and the very last minute was barely going to cut it.  Hadn't we had this conversation a thousand times before and hadn't they learned that procrastinating is never ever a good idea?  And didn't they understand by now that keeping things from your parents was an even worse idea?

There were other things as well... things of a more internal nature.  Doubt, fear, anxiety, sorrow and disillusionment nipped at my mind and begged for my undivided attention.  I could feel the downward pull on my heart.  The cloud was growing darker and darker and larger and larger as it threatened to break loose above me and rain down mercilessly.

But I had been in that same place thousands of times before and had allowed those thick, heavy clouds to rain on my parade and steal my hope, my joy and my trust.  I just didn't want to do that this time.  I have learned that if I want life, I am going to have to fight for it.

So I turned my heart away from the dark and ever-looming cloud and instead shifted it towards light and life.  This is what I heard from Jesus in that moment, "I am not surprised by any of this, by this dark and heavy cloud.  I knew it was coming before it even came.  You have all that you need in me.  You have more than enough.  Do not give way."

And I whispered in response, "I trust you, Jesus.  I choose to trust you and to live by what is true not by what I feel.  You are all that I need.  You are more than enough."

And then I thanked him for great medical insurance because without it the bill would have been much, much higher.  And I took the child who had made a mistake in my arms and held them close and reminded them that I love them not because they perform well or make good choices but simply because they are mine.  And somewhere along the way, as the afternoon turned to evening, the heavy, dark cloud faded away and the sky above me was once again clear.


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